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(Reprinted with permission from July 2011)

You know in the first Madagascar movie when the zebra who is trapped in the zoo says, incredulously, “the wild? You means it’s a place? You can go there!?” Yes it is. And yes you can. And you can take your whole family too.

We (“we”, in this case, being 4 adults and 6 young kids between 2 families) just got back from canoe camping up in the Adirondacks for the last several days. We’ve done this for a few years now – it’s become an annual tradition – and we tried Lake Lila this year – had heard good things about it and we were very impressed!

Nestled roughly in between Tupper Lake and Long Lake, Lake Lila is the largest lake in the Daks that doesn’t allow motorized crafts of any sort. Add to that the 5.6 mile drive back rough access roads, and the .3 mile portage in from the parking area and you end up with a very remote, pristine, and uncrowded body of water absolutely perfect for canoe camping!  There’s also the numerous sandy beaches, islands, a very climbable mountain, and many rock outcroppings for swimming that make this one of the best spots for a family wilderness experience we’ve yet encountered.

Between our family and our friends’ we had 6 kids ages 2 – 9. If a route makes their cut than it’s a good route. And the kids loved this place! We stayed on campsite 20 (on the point of mainland just right of Spruce Island) and the kids loved the sand beach, rock swimming, and soaring 90 foot white pine trees. They loved the climb up Mt. Frederica (an easy 1.5 miles of mostly remote access road + some more traditional Adirondack trail near the top) and the spectacular views (below) from the top.

We, the parents, loved that we didn’t have to paddle more than an hour in any direction to get where we wanted to. Loved that the kids could run around in the woods near the site or on the beach or climb on the rocks and we could relax by the fire. Loved that the remoteness and “no motors” restriction means that we only saw a very small handful of other people while there. No crowds. Quite simply, it’s a beautiful lake – simply stunning – and one of the best “bangs for the buck” we’ve experienced so far in terms of value for family outdoor adventure. Definitely worth checking out!

BTW, we always rent our gear through Raquetter River Outfitters in Tupper Lake, NY. Their extremely knowledgeable staff are a joy to deal with, their rates are very reasonable, and their equipment is top notch. Can’t beat ‘em!

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